PENOBSCOT, Maine — Selectmen are seeking bids for construction of a new subsurface wastewater disposal system for the Penobscot Elementary School and the access road to reach the site.
The town has been under pressure from the state for several years to eliminate the sand filter and chlorination overboard discharge system used by the school. The system was installed, at the state’s insistence, in 1985 when the addition was made to the school building.
The state hopes to reclaim approximately 400 acres of clam flats in Northern Bay by eliminating the only two licensed overboard discharge systems into the bay. The Penobscot Nursing Home has a similar system that also discharges into the bay.
“It will be good to get this behind us and have them work,” Selectman Paul Bowen said Monday. “It has been an unbelievably long process.”
The selectmen advertised for bids after they received the necessary permits for the road project, after a lengthy permitting process for the road. According to Bowen, the town began in August working on obtaining the state and federal permits. The process slowed when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raised concerns about the impact the road might have on wetlands in the area.
“There were way more folks interested in this than we anticipated,” Bowen said Monday. “There are a few wetland areas back there between the school and the site. That seemed to be the issue.”
Bowen said the town refused to pay a suggested fee to offset the effect on the wetlands and instead worked with officials to find other ways to ease the road’s effects. ACE officials insisted on some minor changes to the route of the road and increased the amount of land to be set aside in a permanent conservation easement. The town has agreed to set aside 5.5 acres on the same town-owned parcel behind the school grounds to mitigate the effect of the road on other wetlands.
Under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the town will pay for half the cost of the project to build the road and the septic system for the school. According to Bowen, Penobscot residents last year raised $150,000 to cover the town’s share of the projects.
The selectmen plan to begin the projects this summer after school lets out in June and before classes start in September.
“We’re going to have an impact on the playground temporarily during the project,” Bowen said. “We’re going to use an area near the north end of the ball field to build the road. So we’re hoping to minimize the disruption on the school by starting after school is out.”
The Penobscot Nursing Home also will use a portion of the town-owned land which has been approved for a separate underground wastewater system, Bowen said; however, the town did not know whether the two projects could be built at the same time.
The selectmen will open bids for the school’s system and the road at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23. There will be a pre-bid meeting to examine the site at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, at the school.